Like his six predecessors as president, Joe Biden enters office with the challenge posed by Iran’s regime high on his to-do list. Putting partisanship aside, as far as leverage against Tehran is concerned, the incoming administration has inherited a powerful hand from its predecessor, with the Islamic Republic’s economy already under huge pressure due to U.S. sanctions. Moving forward, speculation now centres on when and how Biden should re-engage Tehran, and if any concessions can be obtained beyond the nuclear issue.
Yet there can be no turning the clock back to 2015 when the nuclear deal was signed between world powers and the Islamic Republic. Since then, Iran has changed internally, and its place in the region is very different. Key to these changes is the increased power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the clerical regime’s ideological armed wing which, as our new report for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change shows, has become more influential in shaping and implementing the Islamic Republic’s security, military, and foreign policies, enforcing what we call its “militia doctrine.”
Often seen as part of the Iranian deep state, the Revolutionary Guard is increasingly transitioning to the state itself. IRGC-affiliated candidates are well placed to take the presidency in June and whoever succeeds ageing Ayatollah Khamenei as supreme leader will need the IRGC more than ever to maintain power.
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